California employers recognize the fact that their employees’ private information must be kept confidential. Despite this, high-ranking employees, particularly managers and supervisors, are not always aware of it. An unsuspicious manager or supervisor may most likely face a lawsuit just by, for instance, sharing confidential medical information with coworkers. But thanks to a ruling by the California Court of Appeals, affected employees can now easily prove their claims of invasion of privacy.
The California Court of Appeals held that oral disclosure of private information is enough for an employee to prove invasion of privacy against the employer, and that disclosure of private information in the form of writing is not required. This is in reference to a California employment case in which the trial court dismissed a former employee’s claim of an alleged invasion of privacy against her former employer after its supervisor disclosed her bipolar condition.
Before the appeals court revived the trial court’s decision to dismiss her claim, the latter held that the right to privacy can only be violated via disclosure in writing, citing a case dating back to the 1930s. However, the California Court of Appeals reviewed similar cases from other jurisdictions and concluded that no distinctions were made between disclosure of private information in both oral and written forms.
The appeals court also made it a point to determine the difference between the common-law right to privacy and the constitutional right to privacy. In the California Constitution, it is explicitly stated there that employees are entitled to their right to privacy, whereas the U.S. Constitution does not include an explicit right to privacy.
Under the state’s constitution, a person’s right to privacy is violated if a private record of any form that should be kept confidential in the first place is not properly disclosed. On the other hand, under the U.S. Constitution, a person’s right to privacy is only violated if the disclosed information made its way to the general public and is offensive to a reasonable person. It won’t be enough if it is disclosed only to a few people.
It is therefore safe to say even an oral disclosure of private information is a violation of California employee rights. It also helps that California employees are protected against such violation under various federal and state laws, including the state’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). Meanwhile, if you are an employee and your employer invaded your right to privacy, then it is best for you to consult with a Los Angeles employment lawyer.